Roger Ebert, of the Chicago Sun Times, called his first film Home For Life (1966) “… an extraordinarily moving documentary.” With Home for Life Gordon and Kartemquin established the direction they would take over the next three decades, making films that investigate and critique society by documenting the unfolding lives of real people.
Recently Gordon won the Documentary Cinematography Award at the Sundance Film Festival for Stevie on which he was also the executive producer and producer. The film portrays a troubled young man and the director’s relationship with him. Stevie premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and won the Joris Ivens Grand Jury Prize in the Amsterdam festival. On Kartemquin’s Refrigerator Mothers, Gordon was again executive producer, producer and cinematographer. Refrigerator Mothers explores the untold stories of an entire generation of women who raised autistic children under the dehumanizing shadow of professionally promoted mother blame. Refrigerator Mothers was broadcast nationally PBS’s P.O.V in the of 2002. “A remarkable documentary … for the viewer an hour with these mothers will be hard to forget,” writes Karen Long of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
In 2001 Gordon was executive producer of Kartemquin’s 5 Girls, which also premiered on P.O.V. The film follows two years in the lives of five resilient teenage girls. The New York Times writes, “At a time when the country is hungry for hope, there’s a welcome helping in 5 Girls.
Gordon produced and directed Vietnam, Long Time Coming (1999). Broadcast nationally on NBC, the film tells the story of disabled and able-bodied Vietnamese and American veterans, brought together on a journey of reconciliation, athletic achievements and emotional discovery as they bicycle the length of Vietnam. Vietnam, Long Time Coming won the Audience Award at the Aspen Film Festival, a National Emmy, and the Director’s Guild of America’s award for Best Documentary.
Kartemquin’s best-known film Hoop Dreams (1994) was executive produced by Gordon. The film follows two inner-city high school basketball players for five years, as they pursue their NBA dreams. Hoop Dreams won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival and was released theatrically to unprecedented critical acclaim, becoming one of the highest grossing documentaries of all time and one of the highest rated documentaries to be broadcast on PBS.
Some of Gordon’s early award-winning Kartemquin productions include The Chicago Maternity Center Story (1976), about saving Chicago’s historic neighborhood-based home delivery service, Taylor Chain I: Story In A Union Local (1980), Taylor Chain II: A Story Of Collective Bargaining (1984) and The Last Pullman Car (1983), three films on union democracy and corporate disinvestments, and GOLUB (1990), a documentary on art, politics and the media, featuring American artist Leon Golub.
Gordon is currently executive producer of The New Americans; a seven-part PBS documentary series on contemporary immigration that will air on PBS in the fall of 2003. He is co-director, with Jerry Blumenthal, of the Palestinian segment for the series.
Gordon has been a long-time supporter of national and community-based independent media groups, and served on the boards of several organizations including The National Coalition of Public Broadcast Producers, The Chicago Public Access Corporation, and the Illinois Humanities Council.